The Allen family – Shirley, Patrick, and their son, Jack have been volunteers with the Travis Mills Foundation since May 2021. Shirley recalls hearing about the Travis Mills Foundation on the local news in 2016 and knew it was a special organization – there was just never a perfect opportunity for their family to volunteer. At the time, Shirley taught at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell, Maine. It also happens to be where TMF part-time programming staff Megan Cormier teaches.
“In April 2021, Megan put out something to all the teachers in our building with an opportunity to volunteer with the Travis Mills Foundation,” Shirley said. “We had been wanting to volunteer and I was like ‘Yes! This is our in!’”
Patrick is a veteran himself, serving almost 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He, along with the rest of the family, finds that volunteering at the Retreat gives them the sense of military community and family they had been missing since Patrick’s retirement.
“One of the things that you miss the most about the military is not the day-to-day stuff you do, it’s the interaction with your Marines, the Marines that work for you and your peers,” Patrick said. “I guess after almost 23 years in the Marine Corps, it just seemed like a natural transition.”
The Allen family said it was difficult to transition out of the military – the sense of community goes missing. However, they found that by volunteering at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat, they were able to re-establish their connection to the military community.
“I feel so connected to all the families that come out [to the Retreat] because they are family and we were in the military, we raised our children military.” Shirley said.
The Allen family finds much meaning in their volunteer work at the Retreat. They have taken part in many different events that have been put on by the Travis Mills Foundation and have volunteered throughout the Retreat grounds. From working in the kitchen with Dulcie Welch, Programming Staff and gardening, to spending time on the lakefront with recalibrated veterans and their families, the Allen family has done it all.
“I’m always thinking to myself, ‘Man I should not be having this much fun volunteering,’” said Jack, 18. “I almost feel guilty for enjoying myself so much, because it just a great experience – Dulcie will put you to work in the kitchen, but I always have a great time.”
While at the Retreat, staff and volunteers encourage veterans to try activities that they may have not taken part in post-injury, or believed they would be able to take part in with their injuries. One activity at the summer Retreat offered to veterans and their families is kayaking.
“My favorite moments are on the lake paddling,” Shirley said. “A lot of [the recalibrated veterans] have either never been kayaking and didn’t think that would be a possibility [for them], or maybe they did it in the past and this is their moment of freedom they don’t get anymore. It is really powerful.”
While Shirley mostly enjoys volunteering on the Retreat’s lakefront kayaking with the recalibrated veterans, Patrick said he most enjoys the feeling of comfort he gets at the end of the day when he goes home.
“The guests are already off doing their next thing and the staff is shuffling around and you walk outside, and it’s just quiet,” Patrick said. “Nobody knows you’re leaving, and you know you did something. No one is there except you, and God I suppose, you know you did the right thing.”
Jack currently attends Erskine Academy and is a high school senior – graduating in spring 2023. He enjoys the Retreat so much and describes is as such a special place to him.
“When it was time to take his senior portraits, this fall, he decided that the one place that was most special to him in Maine, was the Travis Mills Foundation,” Shirley said. “We got special permission, and they allowed us to [bring] our own photographer, and he had his senior photoshoot on the Retreat grounds.”
Describing the photo session as moving, Shirley couldn’t have been more proud of her son.
“It was very special.”
About the Travis Mills Foundation
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post-911 veterans who experienced life changing injuries while in service to our country. The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat offers our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier free, all-expenses-paid experience at its world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. It offers various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Foundation also offers the Warrior PATHH Program (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) for combat veterans and first responders, the nation’s first of its kind program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth.
Learn more >>> www.travismillsofundation.org.